BALOG COLUMN: Charleston community invited to People Against Rape event
Note to readers: This event has been rescheduled for April 25 at Marion Square.
Shauna King admits that the first time she went to the hospital with a rape victim, it was scary.
“Your heart is right there in your throat,” she said.
King is one of about 60 volunteers with People Against Rape. She went through the training after reading about the agency's financial troubles and desperate need for volunteers.
She also has accompanied a victim to her interview with police.
“A lot of women will recant their stories because it's so hard to go through ... the examination is pretty grueling, (and then) to go through the questioning,” she said, “it's demoralizing.”
That's why the volunteers are so important to the group, now more than ever.
'We're still here'
The overall theme for tonight's Take Back the Night event is one of survival and optimism, said Vickey Cornelison-Grant, PAR board member and treasurer.
PAR is in the midst of a rebirth. Leaders are confident that the final audit (which will be completed sometime after April 15) will mesh with a preliminary audit, which showed no one currently involved with the group was involved with the mishandling of funds that put the agency near the brink of collapse and caused it to retreat from view for a few months.
So when it came time to plan this year's Take Back the Night, Cornelison-Grant said the planning committee agreed on a few things.
“Everybody decided we didn't want to do a march, we didn't want to do the chanting,” as they have at previous events at the College of Charleston. “We wanted it to be family friendly. We wanted it to be about hope and survival.”
PAR President Dean Kilpatrick agreed. “Our goal is to let the community know that we're back, that we're as dedicated as ever to addressing the sexual assault problem and that we really do have some good plans for the future,” Kilpatrick said.
From 6 to 9 p.m. at Brittlebank Park, there will be food trucks, music, poetry readings and more. Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen and Mayor Joe Riley will attend, the latter on hand to issue a proclamation naming April 4 as Shatter the Silence, Stop the Violence Day in the city.
PAR volunteers help victims throughout the tri-county area, and they still need volunteers. Once the audit clears, PAR will be eligible for grants, and it looks forward to being able to hire paid staff. The volunteer support has been tremendous, board members said, but many of the volunteers also have full-time jobs.
High up on Cornelison-Grant's list is for the group to be able to do court accompaniments, for what King described as the third round of questioning for victims.
“I think PAR will not rest until we really have taken back the night, and the daytime too, for that matter,” Kilpatrick said.
That's a great goal, and a necessary one. Statistics show one in five women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime; in 2011, a rape was committed once every 6.3 minutes.
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